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Poplar`s promise as ethanol crop

[ California ] The mapping of the genome of the black cottonwood, a member of the poplar family, which was announced in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Science, is significant in that it raises the likelihood that growers will some day be able to plant poplar plantations that will yield nearly twice as much ethanol per acre as corn, now the primary source of ethanol in the United States. Meanwhile, scientists plan to get to work right away on finding a means of genetically engineering plantation poplars into a tree with a simpler cell structure that would make it easier to convert the plant`s cellulose into the simple sugars that create the final product, ethanol. There are also other questions regarding the use of genetically engineered poplars, a term that may raise eyebrows among environmentalists. There is also the question of price competition with corn and other crops. Can growers sit on a stand of poplar for, say, five to 10 years if the price of ethanol craters?

News notes are courtesy of Southern Forests Network News Notes





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